Baseball is one of the oldest of the four major professional sports in the United States and Canada. Its history traces back to the 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it became truly America’s national pastime.
The basic contest in baseball takes place between the pitcher for the fielding team and a batter who stands at one of the batting boxes behind home plate. The pitcher tries to get the batter to hit a ball into fair territory. The batter can do this by hitting a line drive, a fly ball, or a grounder to an infielder; if a batted ball is caught in the air fairly, it puts the batter out and returns the ball to the pitcher.
A run is scored when a baserunner touches all of the bases in order (first, second, third, and home). The first team to reach a certain number of runs wins the game.
If a player hits a home run, all runners are awarded a run. A home run can be achieved by hitting a ball that is hit over the fence in an enclosed field or by hitting a ball over the fence on the fly, which is called an automatic home run.
In most leagues, there are three bases to advance to: first, second, and third. The player who hits a home run is the first baseman and must advance to either of these bases; the player who hits the home run can only do this once during his plate appearance, but all runners on his team may go to any of these three bases, so the total runs counted is three for that batter and his team.
There are many variations of the rules of the game. Some of them involve the position of the players at each base, and some vary with the rules of the game.
The first baseman plays a short distance from his own base; the third baseman is positioned slightly to the right of his own base and the shortstop generally covers an area between the second baseman and the pitcher’s box.
A base runner may advance on an infield single, a wild pitch, or a passed ball. He can also steal a base by moving to the next base while the pitcher is still throwing the ball, but this is illegal and he must be tagged out if he does.
When a ball is hit by the batter in fair territory, it is scored as a single, double, or triple. A single is a hit for one run; a double is a hit for two runs; and a triple is a hit for three runs.
If a runner attempts to steal a base while the pitcher is still throwing the ball, it is called a balk; the pitcher must throw the ball to the infielder before the runner can touch the next base. If he tags out the runner before the runner can reach the next base safely, he is called out; this is called a pick-off.